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Inside the Army
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Vol. 15, No. 29, July 21, 2003
Army, supplier spar over alternative product
ARMY TO REVIEW SMALL ARMS LUBRICANTS . . .
SMALL ARMS PROBLEMS IN IRAQ SPUR ARMY TO INVESTIGATE LUBRICANTS
Problems with small arms during Operation Iraqi Freedom have prompted the Army to investigate alternatives
to the standard lubricant used for individual weapons, like the M-16 machine gun, according to service officials.
Soldiers deployed to Iraq have consistently complained that the Armyís standard "CLP product" attracted sand
to weapons and otherwise performed poorly in the desert terrain, according to an Army after-action report on
soldier equipment. CLP stands for the military specification for a lubricant -- cleaning, lubricating and preserving.
With confidence low in CLP, many soldiers turned to Militec-1, an artificial lubricant deemed by troops to be a
"much better solution for lubricating individual and crew-served weapons," the report states.
Army officials, however, are not so sure.
As a cleaner and a lubricant, the product works "fine," according to an Army official. But because the product
does not protect weapons against corrosion, it is not approved for small arms use by the Armyís Armament Research,
Development and Engineering Center.
Interest in the performance of small arms in Iraq has heightened in recent weeks with the release of the report on
the March 23 ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company. The report details several instances in which the soldiersí
M-16s malfunctioned during the ambush, but does not definitively indicate whether the jamming resulted from
inadequate lubrication, poor maintenance or desert conditions.
The report on the 507th, however, does suggest that the weapons malfunctions "may have resulted from inadequate
individual maintenance in a desert environment."
According to a Militec Inc. official, the maintenance company never requested the Militec-1 product.
Militec-1 has been listed in the Defense Logistics Agency inventory for more than a decade. As such, field units
were free to purchase it on their own until such requisitions were canceled in March, just prior to combat operations
in Iraq, Russ Logan, senior vice president at Militec Inc., told Inside the Army last week.
Unit commanders and individual soldiers -- especially those from the 3rd Infantry, 1st Armored, 82nd
Airborne and 101st Airborne divisions -- then began to purchase the lubricant individually, using both personal
and military-issued credit cards, Logan said. Since March, the company has received thousands of individual
orders for the product, which sells to the military for $3 per 1-ounce bottle -- enough to last a soldier in combat
for six months.
In early May, the Army re-opened DLA requisitions for 60 days because officials didnít want to "second guess
field commandersí operational requirements for lubricant," the Army official said. That requisition window has since
been closed and the service is now in the process of conducting an assessment of the "application and performance"
of Militec-1 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Those findings will then feed into the overall lubricant study, which will review all alternatives to CLP -- not just
Militec-1, the official said. The investigation will include representatives from across the Army, U.S. Special Operations
Command, the independent Southwest Research Institute and industry.
"Weíre concerned about getting the best product to the soldier," the Army official said. "If the study conclusions
lead us to an entirely new military specification, thatís one option. If it leads us back to CLP, thatís another option;
back to Militec-1, another option."
But Militec claims that word never got out to the field on the re-opening of the requisition period and nearly
$120,000 in canceled orders placed through the DLA in March and April were never recovered.
"The 60-day window was put into effect primarily after combat was over," Logan said. "Very few people in the
field knew about it."
The Army and Militec are now locked in a heated debate over use of the product, with the service decidedly
opposed to the full-scale distribution of any lubricant that does not meet military specifications.
"Our specifications are developed in response to operational requirements identified by [U.S. Army Forces
Command] or [Training and Doctrine Command] soldier-customers," Maj. Gen. Ross Thompson, commander of the
Armyís Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, stated in a May 15 memorandum to Militec.
Thompson adds that the Army has worked for the last two years to update the lubricant specification "with input
from industry that capitalizes on advanced technology," according to the memorandum. The service eventually
determined that the current CLP specification represents "state-of-the-art performance for this multi-purpose
Militec, however, has argued that the preservative specification is not essential in dry environmental conditions.
In the jungles of Vietnam, the Army "might worry" about corrosion, but the risk of that occurring in the Iraqi desert is
low, Logan said.
The company also argues that the productís lubrication capabilities would be hindered if it functioned equally as
a lubricant, cleaner and preservative. CLP, Logan said, "doesnít do any one of those three things well."
"If the gun doesnít work, everything else is not important," Logan said.
Thompson, however, is firm in his memorandum, stating that specifications are intended to challenge industry to
"meet the span of the usersí requirements."
The Army official questioned whether malfunctioning weapons during OIF can be directly attributed to the
lubricant itself. More likely, he said, a weapon will fail to work because proper preventative maintenance checks and
services (PMCS) have not been performed.
"In my opinion, malfunctioning weapons, particularly small arms, historically have had more to do with a lack of
PMCS on the weapon than a lack of Militec-1," he said.
Any changes to PMCS, a function of leadership at the tactical level, would be made by TRADOC and field
commanders. The lubrication review will focus only on materiel fixes.
"Inadequate small unit leadership is often the elephant in the living room and, therefore, often lost in the debate
when evaluating lessons learned," said the official, a former small unit leader. "Itís seldom a one-dimensional
problem of hardware . . . or lubrication." -- Megan Scully
INSIDE THE ARMY - www.InsideDefense.com - July 21, 2003
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